A Brit in Brčko

How have I not written to you all sooner? When I had less to say, the art of padding it out was an option. Stretching out scenarios with pointless description and crappy simile, like adding cream to coffee. That would have been a hell of a lot easier than coming out with my introduction, late into my stay here in Bosnia.

Sorry that I didn’t write to you when I spent the night in Belgrade after my flight from Luton. Where I became painfully aware of the lack of a smoking ban here in the Balkans, as the gentlemen on the table in front stubbed out his half-finished cigarette into his half-eaten plate of scrambled eggs. Or when I bought Camel cigarettes at a corner shop as they were the only brand that looked familiar to me, and then going three blocks down the road to a street vendor to buy a bic lighter. Not wanting to cause an bumbling Englishman, Hugh Grantian style fuss in the corner shop after already asking for and buying the pack of Camels. That would have been a good filler story to post… Regret not doing that one.

Could have informed you about the three and a half hour bus journey from Beograd (Belgrade) when we were stopped at the border entering Bosnia. A border patrolman stepped on board the coach to look at our identity cards and passports and I feel that he was rather shirty with me. But upon reflection, he was doing his job well and thoroughly by asking me standard, routine questions. At the time, it seemed menacing. Until then I never crossed a highway border where the border patrol person asks you questions about your stay. It has always been an open and shut case for my passing. This one went a little differently is all and I got flustered by it. An embarrassing lapse in competency for any traveller.

All I remember of the conversation was the following:

“English huh? … What are you here for?”

“Teaching, really”

“[Teaching] what? English, I presume” *looks back down at the pages of my passport with a raised eyebrow*

“Yes… Well, that and a bit of music. Not sure…” [I’m then cut off by-]

“Mhmm! … Hvala [Thanks]” *takes passport off of coach with all the other passengers’ I.D. cards and lets us all drive to the next checkpoint. The driver is then handed all of our cards at the C.P. kiosk and we all drive merrily on our way as the coach’s second in command passes our pass’ back*

It was an odd experience as I was still reeling from Roger Waters reading a poem about the Bush/Cheney years on last week’s episode of the podcast WTF w/Marc Maron. That and all of the bells, whistles and badges of the patrolman which dazzled me into a stupor I eagered to break free from, clutching my British passport and praying I didn’t end up on the wrong side of Balkan authorities.

All went well though, obviously, as I am now writing to you (finally) from the smoking area of a small cafe in Brčko, BiH by the name of ‘Big Ben’. Famed for it’s lovely coffee and amazing Ćevapi (grilled link-sized sausages made from minced meat, onions, herbs, and spices).

Coffee, cigarettes and blog posting. Big Ben Cafe.
Coffee, cigarettes and blog posting. Big Ben Cafe.

Having now been in Brčko the better part of five days, I now feel settled enough to write to TooFewSteps about my travels here. Further apologies for not uploading any pieces of my first night here, amongst a mound of blankets and my sleeping bag, fighting back the tenebrous night’s cold. Having not learnt how to work my storage heater, which has the eerie look of the boiler monster from Home Alone and works in a similar fashion of scaring the fucking shit out of me.

Now that I am settled, had a drink with those I work with, met mentors and guides and all round beautiful people, Brčko is starting to feel like home to me. Hopefully I will be keeping up with posting stuff weekly on TooFewSteps. So until then, please, keep warm and drink what you can with whoever you can. Stayed tuned for more Brit in Brčko.

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